Arab Spring: Reform and Transition of Political System

The Arab Spring or revolutions started in 2010, in which a mass protest movement in overthrowing authoritarian regimes in some of Arab countries, which was a dangerous political change in Arab region has become known as the Arab Spring, a term Arab Spring given to the events that have overthrown some political regimes and presidents such as Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen. Those revolutions in 2010 in some of Arab countries are more or less similar to The 1979 Iranian Revolution. Because both of them are protest movement in overthrowing a political system and replaced with another different political system. The 1979 Iranian Revolution, in which a mass protest movement succeeded in overthrowing the monarchical and dictatorial Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and established an Islamic Republic in its place, is widely considered to be one of the most significant revolutions of the Twentieth Century. In particular, the Iranian Revolution is unique in that it overthrew a secular regime and replaced it with an Islamic state.

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For that reason, the Iranian Revolution and the subsequent Islamic Republic have defied easy understanding.1 Before I discuss Arab spring in more detail, it is necessary for me to clear up some of the subjectivities surrounding terms such as ‘authoritarian system’ and ‘Arab spring’ and explain how I will be employing them in this essay, and also some other terms such as political change. Authoritarianism or authoritarian system is a political system in which a small group of individuals exercises power over the state without being consti­tutionally responsible to the public. In authoritarian systems, the public does not play a significant role in selecting or removing leaders from office, and thus political leaders in authoritarian systems have much greater to develop policies that they “dictate” to the people (hence the term “dictator”). As one can imagine, authoritarian systems by their nature are built around the restriction of individual freedom. At a minimum, they eliminate people’s right to choose their own leaders, and they also restrict to varying degrees other liberties such as the freedom of speech or of assembly.

Authoritarianism’s relationship to equality is less clear. Some authoritarian systems, such as communism, limit individual freedom in order to produce greater social equality. Others seek to provide nor equality, existing only to enhance the power of those in control. The term Arab spring is a series of anti-government uprisings in various countries in North Africa and the Middle East, beginning in Tunisia in December 2010. The Arab Spring has brought down regimes in some Arab countries, sparked mass violence in others, through protests people in some Arab countries they changed political systems and governments, while some governments managed to delay the trouble with a mix of repression, promise of reform and state largesse. But there is another idea about the term “Arab Spring” and they said Arab Spring was popularized by the Western media in early 2011, when the successful uprising in Tunisia against former leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali emboldened similar anti-government protests in most Arab countries.

The term was a reference to the turmoil in Eastern Europe in 1989, when seemingly impregnable Communist regimes began falling down under pressure from mass popular protests in a domino effect. In a short period of time, most countries in the former Communist bloc adopted democratic political systems with a market economy.4 The concept of political change is more related with change of political regime such as non-democratic or authoritarian regime to democratic regime or any other political systems. The term political change refers to the shift or transport from one place to another or maybe from one state to another one. It is intended also the overall transformations experienced by the political structures in society so that the re-distribution of power and influence within the same country or several countries. Tunisia revolution was first revolution in Arab region in other words Tunisia is the birthplace of the Arab Spring which is started following the the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a local vendor outraged over the injustices suffered at the hands of the local police, sparked countrywide protests in December 2010.

The main target was the corruption and repressive policies of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was forced to flee the country on January 14 2011 after the armed forces refused to crack down on the protests. Following Ben Ali’s downfall, Tunisia entered a protracted period of political transition. Parliamentary elections in October 2011 were won by Islamists who entered into a coalition government with smaller secular parties.5 The second revolution or protest was in Egypt when protests in Egypt began on 25 January 2011 and ran for 18 days. Beginning around midnight on 28 January, the Egyptian government attempted, somewhat successfully, to eliminate the nation’s Internet access, in order to inhibit the protesters’ ability use media activism to organize through social media. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia, but the decisive moment that changed the region forever was the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the West’s key Arab ally, in power since 1980, and Mubarak was forced to resign on February 11, after the military, similar to Tunisia, refused to intervene against the masses occupying the central Tahrir Square in Cairo. But that was to be only the first chapter in the story of Egypt’s “revolution”, as deep divisions emerged over the new political system.

Islamists from the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won the parliamentary and presidential election in 2011/12. Third revolution in Arab spring was in Libya By the time the Egyptian leader resigned; large parts of the Middle East were already in turmoil. The protests against Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime in Libya started on February 15 2011, escalating into the first civil war caused by the Arab Spring. In March 2011 the NATO forces intervened against the Qaddafi’s army, helping the opposition rebel movement to capture most of the country by August 2011. Qaddafi was killed on October 20 the end of the protests was after he have been killed.6 There are many different reasons behind Arab Spring or revolutions domestic reasons and international reasons. According to Dr. Hawar Khalil, the head of political science department in university of Duhok. There are three main reasons behind Arab spring; political, economy and social.

Many factors leading up to many protests such as political systems in some of Arabic countries was authoritarian system and government did a control over people, there was no freedom of speech, inequality no freedom of press, human rights violations, unemployment, poverty etc… Also the Arab Spring which is started following the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a local vendor outraged over the injustices suffered at the hands of the local police, sparked countrywide protests. The results of the Arab spring are to reform or change of the political system from bad to better or to worst. Reform is: change and adjustment for the better or worse, especially in the practices and behaviors of institutions are corrupt or authoritarian societies or backward or remove or correct injustice or error.

The idea or the concept of ​​reform is not a new concept, which is found in the writings of ancient Greek thinkers like Plato and Aristotle lot of reformist ideas such as justice, laws, organization of society, the state, political stability, equitable distribution of wealth etc… It could be argued that the idea of ​​reform was is the ultimate goal for many philosophers, leaders, political and social movements in different parts of the world, as well as being a major topic in the political theories of the philosophers and thinkers since Machiavellian in the Middle Ages to Karl Marx in the twentieth century. But in the Middle East the idea of ​​reform began in the Ottoman Empire in the military field after the defeat suffered by the front of the Russia in 1774, then later extended to the political, administrative and social development.7 And the concept political reform is effective steps and seriously taken by governments and civil society about to finding best systems based on democracy principles such as freedoms, human rights, people governs themselves through elections and political pluralism modernization, transition, economic development etc…

That lead to trading authorities, and based by elected legislature, independent judiciary and the government decisions based on constitution. At the end we can say that the results of Arab spring are not reform to better but is more change some political system, and the results of Arab spring in the majority of Arab countries was change to worst even there was elections in some countries but still people suffering from same things before Arab spring and also the results of Arab spring led some countries to war such as Syria. There are many reasons behind not succeed political reform in the majority such as First of all political factors: such as the weakness of the political leaders or politicians, the weakness of constitutional institutions, weakness and loss of legislation and oversight authorities or decision-making ,the weakness of civil society organizations or political parties, unions, associations and federations. Also Political instability, extremism, terrorism, crises, civil wars etc…

The second point related with cultural factors which they are important in the reform process and influential political reform either pay his career forward, or vice versa to stop and impede the reform process, so that the structure of society and its institutions, values ​​and patterns of behavior, have a direct role in influencing the reform positively or negatively. Another important thing is religion and the mentality of people even the political system is changed but still the mentality of people is not change and this is makes reform process more difficult. Third point is related with economic factors: because the majority of Arab people are suffering from bad economic and crises also the poverty, unemployment and exacerbate the gap between rich and poor etc… As a conclusion as I mentioned in the begging of essay Arab spring was which a mass protest movement in overthrowing authoritarian regimes in some of Arab countries many Arab countries such as; Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria etc…

1- Brendan January, the Iranian Revolution, (USA: Lerner Publishing Group, Jan 1, 2008).

2- Juan José Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Jan 1, 2000).

3- Clement Henry and Ji-Hyang Jang, the Arab Spring: Will It Lead to Democratic Transitions, (USA: Palgrave Macmillan, Sep 19, 2013).

4- Primoz Manfreda, Middle East Uprisings,, 2011.

5- Yasmine Ryan, Tunisia’s bitter cyber war,, 06 Jan 2011.

6- Primoz Manfreda, Middle East Uprisings/ Libya,, 2011.

7- Abdullah Belkeziz, Aselat Al-fker Al-Arabi Al-Muaser, (Morocco: Press success Ayyubid, 1998).

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